California Educator

April 2014

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Advocacy Legal T E A C H E R S ' P R O F E S S I O N A L A N D due process rights have been on trial in Los Angeles Superior Court for the past two months. Clos - i n g a r g u m e n t s w e r e h e a r d M a r c h 2 7 i n Ve r ga ra v . C a l i f o r n i a , a lawsuit challenging as unconstitutional laws governing experience-based educator layoffs, the two-year probationary period, and the due process pro- cedures in the teacher dismissal process. The suit, funded by Silicon Valley millionaire David Welch and other corporate school "reformers," is part of a broader and ongoing "blame teachers first" approach to education reform. A strong defense team, with one set of attorneys representing the state of California and another representing CTA and the California Federation of Teachers, put on witnesses who effectively shattered the plaintiffs' claims. The testimony of the plaintiffs' own witnesses undercut the charge that the statutes were harming students. For example, LAUSD Superintendent John Deasy — who strongly supports the lawsuit — was forced to concede that the challenged statutes have nothing to do with teacher assignment, and that time and cost are never considerations when he recommends a teacher be dismissed. He also admitted that under his watch he had reduced what Misguided Vergara trial ends Teacher due process laws work in well-run schools, test scores don't indicate good teaching, say renowned experts and school administrators By Frank Wells had been a nearly automatic granting of perma- nent status to an approximately 50 percent rate, and had increased the teacher dismissal rate in LAUSD tenfold, all using the challenged statutes. Further chipping away at the plaintiffs' case were experts and school administrators who were highly critical of replacing experience as a layoff criterion with "effectiveness" determined by "value-added" test scores. World-renowned education experts like David Berliner and Linda Darling-Hammond testified to the extreme unreliability of such measures, which too often rank teachers near the bottom one year and near the top another. School super- intendents testified that moving to such a system would destroy teamwork, place teachers in competition against one another, and make the layoff system incredibly cum- b e rs o m e a n d co n te n t i o u s . They also pointed out that most subject areas and some grade levels don't even have standardized test scores, and t h a t p l a c i n g s u c h a h i g h - stakes emphasis on test scores w o u l d m a k e c h a l l e n g i n g schools even harder to staff than they are now. Other witnesses testified to the reasonableness and wo r k a b i l i t y o f a t wo - ye a r probation, saying that most principals know within one year if a teacher is ineffective, and others argued for the protections against bias and for academic freedom inherent in the dismissal laws. The evi- dence further showed that the overwhelming majority of teachers faced with dismissal either resign or retire when faced with that likelihood. Cartoon © 2014 Ted Rall, all rights reserved. Education experts that money couldn't buy effectively shattered the plaintiffs' testimony, undercutting the charge that the statutes were harming students. 32 A P R I L 2 0 1 4 You want to protect what's important... Educator 04 Apr 2014 v2.5 int.indd 32 4/15/14 2:21 PM

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